Last night I finished watching The Wire Season 3. I already knew the season spoilers because when I was looking for images to create my Stringer Bell icon I couldn't help noticing the text in which the pics were embedded. Anyway, I think this was possibly the most intense of the three seasons. The various plots clamped down like punitive restraints on the characters. Some escaped with their lives.
I think the genius of The Wire, which it shares with Deadwood, is knowing when to go beyond the bounds of normal realism. If it was all stylised it would weaken it, I think. But as it is, it just knows when to slip the surly bonds of Earth and soar up into some fantastosphere. Because it only happens at heightened moments, it strengthens the impact.